Sask. priest calls on Catholic church to release records of abusive priests, enablers

A Saskatchewan priest has joined the growing chorus demanding the Catholic church release all names of sexual abusers within its ranks.

Rev. André Poilièvre said that's just one of many changes needed to stop child sexual exploitation by priests. He said most of his colleagues are good men, but called the current structure overly hierarchical and sexist.

"The whole cultural clerical system in the church is demonic. It's evil. It's anti-woman. You know that whole clerical culture needs to be destroyed," said Polièvre.

The Saskatoon-based priest is also a member of the Order of Canada, an honour given to him for his work helping thousands of inmates and gang members. The group he founded, STR8UP, has helped many of them to start new lives.

"The whole cultural clerical system in the church is demonic." - Rev. Andre Poilievre

Poilièvre, 83, wants people to just call him André. He said intimidating names and elaborate regalia are part of the problem. He said they create a power dynamic that enables sexual abuse and helps cover it up.

"Look at the titles we've given ourselves — your eminence, your grace, your holiness, your excellency, reverend, most reverend, right reverend. You want me to continue?" he said.

On Jan. 1, 1978, Poilièvre threw his clerical collar in the garbage, and he has worn casual street clothes ever since.

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Poilièvre agreed with those calling for the church to release its files on sexual abusers. He also agrees the church should release the names of those who covered it up. Like others, he said there can be no healing or forgiveness as long as church leaders choose secrecy and exclusion.

He said the church also needs to end the "unhealthy" ban on female, married and gay priests.

"You want to deal with sexual abuse in the church? Ordain married men. Ordain single men. Ordain married women. Ordain single women. Black, white, gay? Who cares?" he said.

Church officials in Saskatchewan and elsewhere acknowledge they conduct internal investigations, and don't share abuse findings with police if the victim is no longer a minor.

Archdiocese promised to release list, but reversed decision

Saskatchewan church leaders say they're compiling files on abuser priests, but none have committed to making that information public.

The Archdiocese of Regina had promised several months ago to release a list, but Archbishop Don Bolen has reversed that stance for now. Bolen said the victims he works with don't want it released. Bolen said he would consider releasing an overall number at some point, but has not given a date.

When asked if forced celibacy was a factor in priest abuse cases, Bolen declined to give an opinion, but said it was an "important discussion" and he's willing to listen.

Many Roman Catholic jurisdictions in the U.S. have volunteered or been forced to release lists of abuser priests in recent months. They typically list the priest, along with dates served in each parish and the known or alleged offences committed. Any names or details that would identify victims is excluded.

In November, the Archdiocese of Vancouver became the first in Canada to publicly reveal sexual abuse convictions against priests. Critics noted they only named a handful of the 36 abusers in the report.  

In a report prepared by the archdiocese at the time, a committee listed some of the systemic problems, "which call into question the integrity of the institution of the Catholic Church." These included the celibacy rule and exclusion of female priests. It also condemned the "pomp and pageantry" in the church that gives priests enormous power over members.